There’s a warmhearted comfort that accompanies the autumn season. Beyond the long-awaited chill in the air after the drawn-out summer months, there are caramel apples and cider, vibrant mums, the new television season and football! And all this jollity and contentment returns amid a backdrop of the fall leaves’ warm hues.
As well, in recent years, there’s a relatively new fall yen to add to the list: pumpkin ale—and more specifically, St. Louis’ own Schlafly Pumpkin Ale. “I have always felt that beer accompanies great occasions—where memories are created,” says Dan Kopman, co-founder of Schlafly Beer. “And so there are really unique and fun occasions in the fall. Whether it's around Halloween or Oktoberfest, or even when it's just starting to get a little bit cooler, people want something different in terms of both food and beer—especially in a place like St. Louis where we are happy to say goodbye to those 100-degree days! When we start bottling our Oktoberfest, Porter and Pumpkin Ale, it’s always a great feeling knowing that cooler weather is on its way.”
Actually, with a little research, we find that pumpkin beer has a rich history in the U.S., as the early colonists used the native North American squash to produce their own version of pumpkin beer. “When you look at beer production, it is based on converting a starch to a sugar and then liquefying it,” Kopman explains. “With the early American experience, in those moments when pumpkin was an available sugar source, it worked well to convert the starch to the sugar and then add yeast to ferment it and turn it into beer.” He adds that in the last couple of decades, small breweries again began attempting the style, but this time with other raw materials. “Brewers in the modern American brewing experience are very interested in innovation and trying new things. This was just sort of one of those natural steps but with some historical precedence.”
Kopman notes that the Schlafly recipe has not changed since its introduction in September 2006. “We knew from the beginning that we wanted to make a bigger brew,” he says. “We wanted to make pumpkin pie in a bottle. This beer is not about hops—it's about cinnamon, nutmeg and all the pumpkin pie spices.” He also explains that the beer has a little higher alcohol content, as well. “Our Pumpkin Ale is 8 percent alcohol by volume. We made a commitment right off the bat to make it bigger, because you need it to stand up to all the spices. And we buy our spices whole, grind them and extract the flavors ourselves, and then we have a special way of adding them—our brewers developed the method internally. It’s probably what makes our beer unique.”
Schlafly Pumpkin Ale makes its annual debut around mid- to late-August and can typically be found on store shelves through Halloween. Kopman points out that since the beer’s beginning, it has been well-received. “In the beer world, it consistently has been rated as one of the top pumpkin beers in the country,” he notes, adding, “And this is strictly based on consumer responses. There are other beers out there that I would say are equally well-made, but this beer is just one that people have latched onto and have sought out around the country.”
More brew news from Schlafly: Another seasonal special release out this month is its Tasmanian IPA made from the Tasmanian hop called Galaxy, which has subtle tangerine and lemon flavors, as opposed to the larger grapefruit notes from the American strains, according to Kopman. Schlafly Christmas Ale, with its honey, juniper and other spices, will be available in November. Cheers!